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Materials Science in Spacesuits -

Materials Science in Spacesuits por Intro to Materials Science--Guided Inquiry (UVa)   2 anos atrás

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Space is just about the most human-unfriendly environment that we can reach at this point, making safe space suit materials an essential factor of space travel. No where else do humans and the materials that protect us face such challenges. To begin with, the vacuum of space means that people must have their own air supply and a suit that can be pressurized and is completely airtight. Another derivative issue of the vacuum is the temperature gradients, which can vary through a range of over 100 C, so a safe spacesuit must insulate the human from the frigid shadows of space, while keeping him/her cool in the 100 + degree sun. Also, the suit must be incredibly resilient, because a puncture means almost certain death as a result of the conditions. Thus, the material cannot tear, which is especially difficult because space debris is often unsmoothed, and will rip normal clothes and materials easily, and it is often moving at incredibly high velocity in orbit. Finally, the suit must be flame retardant in the event of a space emergency.
The materials used by NASA to solve these problems are composites and combinations of composites. For each requirement there is a different material. To protect against pressure changes, the pressure bladder is an inner layer of the space suit made of Neoprene-coated nylon.1 Mylar serves as another layer to the suit, preventing overheating when astronauts encounter direct sunlight.2 In order for astronauts to remain safe against dangerous space debris, a harder outer shell of Teflon coated glass-fiber Beta cloth is used as protection.1 A final material used in space suits is Kapton film, which can be used in layers in the boots of astronauts to provide thermal insulation. Space exploration is an exciting and important part of scientific advancement, and the study of materials used in space suits is an essential step in continuing to explore the universe.



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